Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Enhancing Your Personal Security: Business Travel

As part of your job, you may need to travel. I hope that the following information is helpful to you in such cases. Most likely, as you read, you will say yourself, about me, “this guy has been watching too many James Bond movies.”

Taking a taxi

Generally speaking, regardless of the city, a legitimate taxi will display a taxi driver license with at least the name and photo of the driver. Usually this license will be posted behind the driver’s seat or the front passenger seat, so that passengers in the rear can view it. Making sure that the driver really is the driver is a sensible step. This idea also applies if, instead of taking a taxi, the organization you are visiting says they will send a driver for you, for example to meet you at the airport. In such a case, try to verify the name of the car service and at least the name of the driver. Even better, try to get a photograph of the driver.  In either case, failing to verify the driver might leave you in the same situation as James Bond.

As soon as possible, make sure the taxi driver knows that someone else knows about you and the taxi you are in. The best way is simply to make a telephone call from the taxi to someone, in which you tell that person your location, your destination, the taxi number and the name of the driver. When you speak, do so loudly enough so the driver can hear you. In this way, the driver is more likely to be dissuaded from any wrong intentions.

Whether you are on business travel or not, never be reluctant to take a taxi to go home if your work requires you to work late. This advice applies especially if your work can be charged to a client of your employer, and if you normally would take public transportation home. That client should understand that a taxi fare is a reasonable part of asking you to work late. Of course, the best approach is to speak to your boss or the client ahead of time about such a possibility.

Staying in a hotel

When you check into a hotel, the front desk person will give you your room number along with a key. However, that room number information should come via a written note, or by a computer printout. In no event should the front desk person say your room number out loud. Nonetheless, if the person should do so, you might want to quietly ask for another room, and this time to get the number as described above.

When you get to your room, look for at least two fire exits. Think about how easily you could get to them in darkness, because when a fire occurs, electricity in a building could fail. In fact, you might even consider testing yourself by blindfolding yourself to see if you nonetheless can reach a fire exit.

Because of this possibility of a power failure, consider bringing a flashlight, or else at least make sure your phone has a flashlight app. If you choose the traditional flashlight I recommend the Mini Maglite This flashlight is well made, compact and light. In addition to merely providing light, however, it can double as a weapon because of the hard casing it has. That is, if need be, you can hit an attacker with it. Also, I have taken it with me on airplanes, in carry-on luggage, and I have never been questioned about it.

Driving a rental car

A few years ago, rental car drivers in Miami were facing a high number of carjackings and attacks. The criminals were drawn by stickers or decals that such cars had, identifying the car as a rental. As a result, rental car companies there stopped this practice, and most likely this practice has spread. Still, you might want to make sure by checking the car yourself as you are picking it up. If you should see such a sticker or decal, ask about having it removed.

Similarly, try to get, if possible, a car with an in-state license tag. Having one from out-of-state makes you more conspicuous, even if the car doesn’t otherwise indicate it is a rental.

Take time to make sure that the car’s registration and inspection information is current. Generally speaking, each state has a system and procedure for doing so, and will have some sort of decal on the license or on the windshield, along with a month and year of expiration. Yes, the car rental company staff should have made sure, but sometimes mistakes happen, and one such mistake came at my expense.

A few years ago, I was driving a rental car in Washington DC. One afternoon, I was making a turn from westbound Virginia Avenue onto northbound New Hampshire Avenue, in the vicinity of The George Washington University. Suddenly I saw red and blue flashing lights of a police car, and pulled over. The officer told me that the license tags on the car were expired, and was making comments about my potentially having to be detained. However, after viewing my car rental documents, he simply allowed me to leave.

When I returned the car, I asked for and received a steep discount.

One final note regarding cars: for reasons that will be clear to you from this video, I dislike sitting in a car if someone is sitting behind me.

I hope this information is helpful to you.    
The above information does not constitute legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship. The author does not guarantee that this information will be effective in any given situation.
Calvin Sun, Attorney at Law, 610-296-3947,

Friday, July 4, 2014

Enhancing Your Personal Security I: Protect Your Home Address

The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty. (NIV)—Proverbs 27:12

If you are reading this blog, then you probably are already working in the US with a green card or non-immigrant status, or you hope to do so soon. In any case, this blog post, and the ones that follow, will offer some thoughts on enhancing your personal security. I do not claim to be an expert, or to have any law enforcement experience. I will say, though, sadly, that two people I knew died from criminal violence in West Philadelphia. One of them, Wharton classmate Douglas Huffman, was mugged in the 4400 block of Osage Street late one night in our first year. During the incident, his head hit the curb. Refusing medical treatment, he instead went home and later died in his sleep. The other was a young man from my church, Cyril Leung 梁湘麒, a graduate student at Penn, who was beaten into a coma in Clark Park in October 1988 and died a few weeks later. My other crime connections include service as a juror in a capital murder case, and representation, for H-1B status, of an individual and an organization that counsel victims of sex trafficking.

I certainly do not wish such things to happen to you. However, as much as I would like, I am unable to guarantee that reading what I write will guarantee your safety. Still, I hope this information helps you and makes you think.

A few years ago, I was communicating with a former student of mine, a graduate of Tsinghua Law School, whom I had met in 2008. One day I noticed an address in her signature line, and this address struck me as strange because it didn’t look like an office address. Out of curiosity, I replied to her and asked her if that address was either the office where she was and is working, or whether it was the departmental address of the university she had graduated from. I then wrote that I really hoped it was not her home address.

She replied that yes, it was her home address.

Did I ever freak out at her. In 48-point type, I immediately and furiously wrote to her,
I explained to her, after I settled down, that the issue was not that friends of hers might have this address. Rather, the issue was that these friends might forward her email to other people, who might in turn forward it to still others. In other words, people she might not even know could have her home address via her email.

Putting a home address in an email signature is an extreme example. Probably you would never do such a thing, and neither, I hope, will this student anymore. Maintaining the privacy of your home address is a critical aspect of your personal safety.The more that you circulate that information, the less privacy you have, and hence the greater the chances that you are creating a security exposure for yourself.

One of the most common places where you might put your home address is in a resume. Doing so is a common practice, and it stems from the days before email and texting. In those days, the only way to communicate in writing was via regular U.S. mail. For this reason, an employer would want an address on a resume.

Today, however, we have alternate communication methods. For this reason, you may want to re-think the practice of putting a home address on your resume. Instead, you might want to limit your contact information to only a cell phone and email address.

On the other hand, a potential employer, particularly one from an older generation, might be put off by the lack of an address. Last year, one executive told me that he used the resume address as an initial screening, to give less weight to resumes which indicated that the candidate lived further away. I question this person’s logic, but it is what it is, and others might think the same way. For this reason, you will need to weigh the advantages vs. the disadvantages of putting your address on your resume.

One possible solution is to use an alternate address, for example by renting a box from the U.S. Postal Service. Then, instead of using your real home address, use the post office box. One disadvantage of this approach is that many if not all courier services will not deliver to a post office box, and a key example is Federal Express. That is, they and others would require an actual street address.

For this reason, if such delivery is important, you might want to consider instead a private mailbox service, such as the UPS Store, Mailboxes Etc. or similar business. Such services are more likely to be able to accept courier deliveries, assuming that they allow you to specify an actual street number and name along with the private mail box number.

If you do use such an alternate address, then you possibly could use it for more than a resume. You could use it for magazine subscriptions, merchandise orders and other things. If not, be aware of actions that could reveal your address, such as bringing a subscription magazine to the office, or else leaving it in your car such that someone could see it from the outside.

On a related note: if you live in a garden apartment complex, and if you have a car, then the management office probably wants to keep track of which cars are authorized to park. If the office does not keep a paper-based or computer file of license numbers and car model information, then probably they would require you to have an identifying sticker for your rear window or your bumper. If that sticker includes the name of your apartment complex, then be aware that you have given up some measure of privacy as to your address.

Later posts will cover other aspects of personal safety. I hope this initial post is useful.

The above content does not constitute legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship.

Calvin Sun, Attorney at Law, 610-296-3947,